Active Release Techniques

What Is Active Release Techniques
Soft Tissue Management Systems?

Active Release Techniques Soft Tissue Management Systems is quite comprehensive. First read our quick question & answer portion and a synopsis of what this cutting edge manual medicine treatment is. Following the brief explanations are detailed descriptions of the physiologic as well as healing responses that ART involves.

Frequently Asked Questions

ART is a patented, state-of-the-art soft tissue system that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they are often a result of overused muscles.

They may look and sound similar, but the procedures are actually very different and the results they produce are very different. There are many styles of massage and generally massage promotes relaxation and increased circulation. Neuromuscular and Myofascial Release Massage gets more specific but it does not fix the soft tissue and make it work properly. ART is protocol specific for the correction of adhesions & scar tissues. Anyone who has had ART can tell you, it's NOT massage! Does ART help pain referral from trigger points? Yes, trigger points are tender spots in muscles that cause you to feel referred pain. For example, a trigger point in your piriformis muscle, a deep muscle in your glutes, will tell your brain that there is a problem in your glute that runs down the back of your leg into your foot. "Where it hurts isn't where it is!" By correcting the muscle function, the trigger point goes away and so does the pain referral. For this reason we are sometimes asked why we are working on an area that normally doesn't hurt. Working on just pain specific areas is what we call "Chasing Pain." This is something we do not do and for this reason you get results.

Our bodies contain special protein structures called connective tissue, also known as fascia. This substance connects each part to other parts and the whole, very much like a flexible skeleton. When this tissue is healthy it is smooth and slippery, allowing the muscles, nerves, blood vessels or organs to move freely and function properly. Imagine a piece of scotch tape, the smooth side is healthy fascia; the sticky side is scar tissue or unhealthy fascia. Rub the tape along your skin - both sides - to "feel" what an adhesion is like. The drag that you feel, the "pulling" sensation, is what an adhesion is like. These adhesions attach to muscles, nerves and lymph decreasing their ability to work properly. You really know when you have an adhesion on a nerve; you get many abnormal sensations like numbness, tingling or pain.

Stretching plays a very important role in the treatment and prevention of injuries but it will not break down adhesions. Adhesions, or scar tissue, are much stronger than normal healthy tissue. Muscle groups can often adhere/bind to one another preventing the normal sliding necessary for full mobility. When an individual performs a stretch, the tissue that lengthens is not the adhered tissue but the healthy tissue. This can actually cause more damage to healthy tissue resulting in the increase of adhesions. Stretching correctly is still essential, but it will never release the restrictions that are already present.

Stretching and exercises are only effective after the dysfunction within the soft-tissue structures have been correctly released. Stretching and exercising dysfunctional tissues will only lead to a dysfunctional result. The combination of finding the origin of the problem, ART treatments, functional training, stretching and behavioral modifications will result in long lasting results.

It is best to wear loose, comfortable clothing. If you have a lower body injury, please bring a pair of shorts, if possible.

Over-used muscles (and other soft tissues) change in three important ways:

  • Acute conditions (pulls, tears, collisions, etc),
  • Accumulation of small tears (micro-trauma)
  • Not getting enough oxygen (hypoxia).

Each of these factors can cause your body to produce tough, dense scar tissue in the affected area. This scar tissue binds up and ties down tissues that need to move freely. As scar tissue builds up, muscles become shorter and weaker, tension on tendons causes tendonitis, and nerves can become trapped. This can cause reduced range of motion, loss of strength, and pain. If a nerve is trapped, you may also feel tingling, numbness, and weakness.

Every ART session is actually a combination of examination and treatment. The ART provider uses his or her hands to evaluate the texture, tightness and movement of muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Abnormal tissues are treated by combining precisely directed tension with very specific patient movements.

These treatment protocols - over 500 specific moves - are unique to ART. They allow providers to identify and correct the specific problems that are affecting each individual patient. ART is not a cookie-cutter approach.

ART has been developed, refined, and patented by P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP. Dr. Leahy noticed that his patients' symptoms seemed to be related to changes in their soft tissue that could be felt by hand. By observing how muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and nerves responded to different types of work, Dr. Leahy was able to consistently resolve over 90% of his patients' problems. He now teaches and certifies health care providers all over the world to use ART.

Detailed analysis of Active Release Soft Tissue Techniques

Active Release Techniques Soft Tissue treatment (ART) is a manual therapy administered by trained professionals to certain soft tissue structures of the body. The ART soft tissue management system is based on scientific evidence that muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue develop adhesions within and between them as a result of various injuries that include: acute (sudden injury), cumulative (chronic injury) and pressure (due to poor posture). These adhesions cause the motion of muscles or joints to be altered, resulting in a wide variety of symptoms including pain, weakness and reduced range of motion, numbness and tingling.

Currently there is no division of health care which specializes in the treatment of soft tissue related disorders. There isn't even a name for a doctor who specializes in the treatment of muscle related and soft tissue disorders...that was until ART soft tissue treatment was invented. There is now hope for many who have visited every health professional but were told to just live with the pain.

Michael Leahy, D.C., currently practicing in Colorado Springs, Colorado started developing ART in 1984. Prior to practicing chiropractic, Dr. Leahy was an aeronautical engineer with the US Air Force. This engineering background allowed Dr. Leahy to approach soft tissue injuries from a new perspective, evolving into ART. Dr. Leahy is now widely regarded as a top soft tissue expert in the United States and the world.

After a diagnosis has been reached based on a history and examination, treatment can be rendered. Since soft tissue injuries created by scar tissue cannot be detected by a machine (such as X-ray or MRI), or by any orthopedic tests, ART is itself a diagnostic tool. The practitioner can determine where the adhesions are, and how severe the soft tissue injury is, simply by his/her touch.

ART is generally performed with a direct contact from the doctor to the patient's skin. The practitioner will find the area to be worked on and either have the patient actively move a body part or passively move the body part for the patient. The practitioner’s contact, coupled with the movement of the patient, allows the adhesions to separate.
The treatment protocols - over 500 specific moves - are unique to ART. They allow providers to identify and correct the specific problems that are affecting each individual patient.

ART goes right after the sights of adhesion in order to break up the scar tissue creating the pain and dysfunction. Since these sights are very sensitive to begin with, ART may create some discomfort described by many patients as a "good hurt". However, pressure is never applied beyond the patient’s tolerance.

Each patient is different. On average, between 2-6 visits (each lasting about 15 - 30 minutes) are required for correction of soft tissue problems. Factors that affect this range include the severity of the problem, the patient’s willingness to participate in their treatment and the patient’s overall health status. Patients must take an active role in their recovery to help reduce the chances of reoccurrence. This may involve strengthening a certain tissue or changing certain activities.

ART is considered one of the most effective and successful therapies for soft tissue injuries. However, like all other techniques ART can’t fix everything. If significant improvement is not seen during the course of treatment, other treatments or referrals will be considered to fully resolve your injury. We do not encourage ongoing treatments if no improvement is seen within several visits.

The quick answer to this is anyone who is in pain due to a soft tissue injury. ART is used in a clinical setting on Professional and Olympic athletes, office workers, laborers, housewives, youth athletes, as well as many others. What these people all have in common is altered movement patterns, but their mechanism or cause is different. ART effectively treats muscles, tendons and ligaments throughout the body that have become congested with scar tissue by freeing up their ability to function and thereby reducing pain.

ART is also effective at treating peripheral nerve entrapments where a nerve has become entangled by scar tissue and has tension or pressure exerted during certain positions or movements. Through a provider’s extensive training, they are taught where the nerves are most likely entrapped and how best to reduce the adhesions. This gives individuals who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and other peripheral nerve entrapments a quick and easy solution to their complaints.

Conservative treatments such as ART should be explored before a person has decided they cannot be helped for their given condition. You don’t have to live with pain! If it’s a soft tissue structure that is causing your pain, it can most likely be fixed.

Only those certified in Active Release Techniques can effectively render treatment. Unfortunately, there are some individuals who claim they provide ART but don’t actually get the true training needed to provide safe and effective treatment.

Performance of any task such as golfing, typing, walking or running can be improved significantly with ART by restoring proper muscle function and movement to allow the body to perform at its most efficient level. Adhesions create drag and tension which requires more energy and effort to accomplish a desired movement. Reaction times can also be improved as muscle function is improved.